I suppose any review of the 3D re-release of Titanic, still one of the highest grossing films ever, is a bit pointless. Chances are high that you’ve already seen Cameron’s “disasterpiece” and have already made up your mind whether or not to watch it with stupid specs on. Having only seen Titanic on VHS several eons ago, it was an interesting experience to see it all on the big screen and I felt I could view the film with fresh eyes, feeling like I needed a new pair after 3 hours of headache-inducing dimensionality.
As Titanic is one of the most famous films ever, I know you don’t need a plot summary, but I like the way my keyboard clickety-clacks when I type so I’ll give you one anyway. We join a group of scruffy treasure hunters searching for the Heart of the Ocean, a hugely valuable blue diamond necklace, amongst the sunken remains of the Titanic. During their fruitless search, they come across a nude portrait of a woman wearing the sought-after jewel. Turns out this woman’s still alive and is choppered out to the salvage vessel where she tells a tale of true love between her 17 year old self (Kate Winslet) and grimy dreamboat Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and her personal experience of the tragic sinking. It’s not hard to see why this was the planet’s favourite flick at one time. It’s a classic love story that clearly struck a chord with audiences worldwide. Thing is, both DiCaprio and Winslet are pretty wooden as the leads. They’ve both evolved into great actors, but I was surprised at how bland they both were here. Still, great acting is not required in Titanic. Many characters are as broadly painted as they come in order for as many people as possible to buy into the central romance. Billy Zane’s rich fiancée Cal, for instance, is basically a Disney villain, specifically Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He’s an easy hate figure, being insanely rich and a douchebag to boot. He starts off as a snobby jerk but soon descends into moustache-twirling territory later on when he hits Rose, frames Jack and uses a lost, crying child as a ticket onto one of the lifeboats.
The love story doesn’t gel with me, but I get that it’s a romantic fantasy. Just because I can’t stretch my suspension of disbelief that far, doesn’t mean other people can’t . It’s not a documentary. It’s basically Romeo and Juliet where Verona sinks. To me, Titanic works as a hallmark of epic filmmaking. I am loath to use the increasingly devalued word “epic”, but I use it in its correct sense, not in the sense that you and your squealing, vapid friends had an “epic” weekend. The scale of the film is really impressive. Whilst some of the then-ground breaking CGI looks slightly dated, it still doesn’t spoil the overall grandiose feeling . The actual sinking of the ship is still as awe-inspiring and horrific as it ever was. It’s all incredibly well handled by Cameron, who keeps everything as practical and as realistic as possible, despite the heavy use of effects. The last half of the film really pulls things together. It becomes tense, exciting and affecting. If you don’t feel something when the band plays “Nearer My God to Thee” and we see an old couple hunkered down in their bed as the seawater fills the room or when we see a mother reading her kids a permanent bedtime story, you’re dead inside. It’s rough stuff.
So then, the 3D. Well, it’s the best post-conversion job I’ve seen. Everything from the title to the icy finale is all sticky-outy. After Avatar, James Cameron has become the easily-punchable face of 3D and it’s clear he didn’t want to merely run it through a computer like 2010’s Clash of the Titans rush-job, post-conversion scam. Some actual thought has been put into this, but with all the things now sticking out at me, the one thing that was most prominent was the question “why?”. I can sort of understand the recent Star Wars re-release (although it doesn’t mean I can’t hate it as much as I do) as it’s a big sci-fi with space battles and the like. But Titanic is such an odd choice for 3D-ifying. Director/studio greediness aside, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t add anything to the film at all. If anything, it makes the effects look worse. There’s a big, sweeping shot of the ship where it’s clear CGI versions of the actors are traversing the deck, plotting the ship’s course and chatting to each other. Thing is, 3D makes things look smaller and messes with your sense of scale. As a result, this particular shot looks like a clip from The Sims: Disaster Edition.
Titanic is a weird one, whilst I’m not convinced by the central romance or the acting, it still manages to be an entertaining disaster epic. Having said that, am I the only one who finds it a bit tacky to base a fictional love story around a real-life disaster? Are they going to do a buddy picture set in the Hindenburg next? This wouldn’t really be a problem, but I feel this is further cheapened by the fact that it’s now being re-released in gimmicky 3D to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. It’s a blatant, naked cash grab, not a heartfelt memorial. I’m not getting all moral on you or anything, just a thought. So, to recap: Titanic good, 3D not needed, the film clearly shows the door couldn’t support both of them- that’s why he’s in the water.